WASILLA — Gille Learning Center is officially open for business and accepting students, celebrating their arrival to downtown Wasilla with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Wasilla Mayor Glenda Ledford and city officials Wednesday.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled for them to be here,” Ledford said.

Ledford said that she admired the center’s emphasis on fostering critical thinking with programs like STEM incorporated in their curriculum. She said the city of Wasilla is very fortunate to welcome a new childcare facility focused on supporting families of all demographics, further improving the community’s overall quality of life.

“The bottom line is Wasilla a very family-oriented place to be,” Ledford said.

City of Wasilla Deputy Administrator Crystal Nygard said this community milestone was exciting to witness. She said that the work being done for local children is crucial.

“An investment in the children is an investment for the future,” Nygard said.

Gille Learning Center lead teacher Darean Doniz also believes that children are the future. She said that her mother Misty Gilland has been dreaming of this moment for many years and she’s thrilled to help bring her vision to life and seeing it in action each day as she interacts with their students.

“I love being here and I love being with these kids. This grand opening has me so excited,” Doniz said. “It is really, really important to me… Children are our future. They are a world of possibilities.”

Doniz said they opened their doors to the public and started enrolling students May 22. She said they’re currently working with about a half-dozen students at the moment, with 40 slots available for children in the elementary age group. She said that age group is their primary focus and the driving force behind her mother’s motivation to fill a “huge gap” left in early childhood education.

Gilland is a retired school teacher. She said that she’s been looking forward to this moment for a long time. She said they hit the ground running since they opened, and she hopes to fill their enrollment roster and eventually grow the program over time with feedback from parents and the greater community.

“It’s never been attempted the way we’re trying it,” Gilland said. “I think that the need is there it’s just a matter of getting people to know we’re here… It has been a lot of hard work and we hope it shows.”

Gilland said they work with students with a variety of learning styles and readily support each child’s unique needs. She said that no kid is a “cookie-cutter” mold and neither is their facility.

“We are one of a kind… You won’t find anyone like us out here,” Gilland said. “That’s all we want to do is help families…Because, the kids, they’re worth it.”

Gille Learning Center is located at 425 West Parks Highway within the plaza area, near Value Village. For more information, call 907-357-1100 or visit gillelearning.com.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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